Why Do Cats Bury Their Waste?

Written by: Adri Sandoval
Adri Sandoval is the Special Projects Manager for iHeartDogs and iHeartCats. Her work has deepened her love for animals, fostering a strong passion for rescue and animal advocacy.Read more
| Published on December 19, 2017

One of the many reasons some people prefer cats over dogs is that cats will use a litter box and don’t need to be taken outside to do their business. But why is it that so many cats bury their poop in the litter box? Or, what does it mean if your cat skips this step and leaves it uncovered? And what could it mean if your cat used to bury their waste, but no longer does? Here’s the scoop on why cats bury their poop (or not!).

Cats like to be clean

Generally speaking, cats are very fastidious creatures and prefer to keep themselves and their environment as clean as possible. However, if your cat is over-grooming themselves, they may be dealing with a medical or anxiety issue and should be taken to the vet.

They’re hiding from predators or dominant cats

More than fastidiousness, cats use their urine and feces as a way to mark their territory – or not, depending on the circumstances. Large cat species like lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars usually don’t bury their poop. They use their excrement as a way of marking the boundaries of their territory in order to let other cats know that this is where they live and hunt. Smaller cat species usually tend to bury their excrement in order to not attract attention to themselves from predators or dominant cats, especially close to where they sleep (and where their kittens are located).

In feral cat colonies, the dominant cats may leave their poop unburied in order to display their dominance, while the other cats will bury their feces so as not to threaten the dominant cats in the colony.

They see you as being dominant.

If your cat does bury their poop in the litter box, they are acknowledging that you are the dominant animal in the home and they don’t want to risk upsetting you. A cat that has always left their poop uncovered may not see you as being dominant over them, although it is also possible that they were not shown how to bury their feces by their mother when they were a young kitten.

Related: The 11 Best Cat Litter Boxes for the Purrfect Potty Experience

What if my cat stops burying their poop?

If your cat used to bury their waste but has stopped, they may be suffering from a medical condition such as a urinary tract infection, a gastrointestinal problem, or even arthritis that makes spending any extra time in the litter box painful.

Assuming you are keeping the litter box clean, if your cat begins to refuse to use it altogether, it’s time for a trip to the vet.

(H/T: Live Science)

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